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Whately moves toward Green Community status

WHATELY — Whately has figured out a way to save enough energy to join 17 other communities across Massachusetts to earn the status of Green Community this year.

Selectman Paul Newlin, who is also a mechanical engineer and physics professor, found that by switching the 20-year-old dual fuel boiler at the Whately Elementary School to a condensing natural gas boiler, the town could reduce its energy use by 19 percent in five years.

Although the Green Communities criteria are to reduce municipal use by 20 percent, the selectmen believe the state will take into account that the town started reducing its energy use before the grant program was implemented in 2008.

By Oct. 30, the town intends to apply to the Green Communities Division — the branch of the state Department of Energy Resources that runs the program and helps municipalities reduce their energy bills.

The downside is that the town’s application will come five months after the May 29 deadline for grants, making it ineligible to receive any money this year. The town can apply for state dollars next year.

The town has met four of the five benchmarks the state requires: by-right siting in designated spots for alternative-energy facilities, an expedited permit process for these facilities, purchase of only fuel-efficient vehicles and new Board of Building Regulations and Standards Stretch Code to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction.

But Whately hit a wall when it tried to make a plan to reduce the town’s energy consumption by 20 percent between 2011 and 2015. Based on an earlier energy audit by Newlin, the town needed to find 983 million kilowatts to reduce, but it could only come up with 450 million kilowatts over the next five years. The town blamed the setback on its decision to start saving energy before the state created the Green Communities Grant Program.

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